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Astros Minor League Review: LHP Kevin Chapman

The trade of Humberto Quintero and Jason Bourgeois to the Kansas City Royals this spring was a good one for a couple of reasons. For one, both players had a good chance of not making the team out of spring and being exposed to waivers where other teams would have a chance to claim them instead of having to trade talent for them. Secondly, the Astros were able to add depth to the system in two areas that were lacking, centerfield depth, and left-handed relief depth. The 24-year old lefty Kevin Chapman acquired in the deal became the Astros top lefty relief prospect in the system, and responded by putting up a solid numbers in the Hooks bullpen this season.

Chapman fits the profile of a reliever that has a chance to be a late inning reliever with a fastball that sits in the low to mid-nineties, and is paired with a hard slider that falls somewhere between the average and plus range. At the time of the trade John Sickels posted his scouting report on the trade here. The takeaway:

His K/IP ratios are excellent (110 whiffs in just 80 career innings) and he gets plenty of ground balls (1.60 GO/AO in his career), but he needs sharper command to thrive at higher levels.

Chapman could be a very good power reliever if he can harness his stuff. He threw strikes in college in '10, so there is some precedent of effectiveness here.

Chapman pitched 39.2 innings at the double-A level in 2011 in the Royals system and experienced mediocre results. He had a very impressive strikeout rate at 11.34 K/9 rate, but also allowed 4.76 BB/9 rate. His 4.99 ERA was unimpressive, but his FIP of 4.06 was slightly above the league average rate, and his 3.20 SIERA pointed to a brighter future for Chapman. This proved to be true as Chapman pitched 58 innings for the Hooks this season and posted a very impressive ERA of 2.64, and also had an impressive FIP of 3.17. However, his 2012 campaign was opposite of his 2011 season as his batting average on balls in play decreased from .348 to a level slightly below league average at .296. This coupled with a much higher left on base percentage of 79.6% (compared to 66% in 2011) raised his SIERA to 4.04, so he may not be able to post as shiny of an ERA next season as he did this year for the Hooks.

In 2011 Chapman posted a groundball percentage of 50% in his combined 62 innings pitched in the Royals season. This year with the Hooks that groundball rate dropped to 43.30%, though his line drive percentage also dropped from 21% to 15.90% which was league average. He only allowed 49 hits in his 58 innings pitched, but when that is coupled with his 32 walks allowed in amounts to a below average WHIP rate of 1.41. The biggest question mark about Chapman’s game (control) was left unanswered in his second season at the double-A level.

As a lefty reliever his success against left-handed batters is important as it could increase his chances of making it to the majors as a left-handed specialist if retiring lefties is a skill he possesses. Over his career he’s posted a 2.92 FIP against lefties and has also induced groundballs 49.50% of the time while also posting an impressive 12.9 K/9 rate. With the increased strikeouts though also comes an increase in his walk rate which sits at 5.87 BB/9. This season Chapman logged 22 innings against lefties and posted a much higher FIP of 3.72. His strikeout rate was still impressive at 10.6 K/9, but his walk rate increased to 6.75 BB/9. He’s shown that he possesses the skill to get lefties out on a regular basis, but needs to improve his control when southpaws step up to the plate.

Overall, Chapman had a great year in the Hooks pen even though some of the questions that surrounded him heading into the season will still surround him heading into next season. He formed an impressive trio at the back of the Hooks bullpen alongside Josh Zeid and Hooks closer Jason Stoffel. Both Chapman and Zeid struck out more than a batter per inning, and Stoffel just fell short of that mark this season. Chapman should be promoted to the Redhawks next season and hopefully will pair with his Hooks regulators and form a solid bullpen for the Redhawks as well.